The Music of Glasgow Rock Band Franz Ferdinand

Franz Ferdinand began in Scotland in 2002 as a group of friends and musicians who decided to get together and write songs. Having played in various bands together before finally creating Franz Ferdinand, these four friends were already quite familiar with each other’s styles, likes, and dislikes. Besides creating an immediate and long-lasting bond between them, this is possibly also one of the reasons for their widespread success.

They first became famous across the United Kingdom with their 2004 single “Take Me Out,” which was taken from their self-named debut album. Both the album and the single reached the number three position in UK music charts, although initially charting low in the United States. The band remedied this low US showing by making a number of extensive tours across the United States and producing a very relevant music video to their single that received heavy airplay on MTV. They eventually ended up selling over a million copies of their album in the United States alone.

Their first album received a strong positive showing from critics, many of whom likened them to a new Rolling Stones or a modern day Duran Duran. They were labelled as a school rock band with an artsy twist, and many critics predicted great things for them.

Franz Ferdinand’s follow up album was initially planned to be self-titled just like their first. After much deliberation, however, the band decided to give it a hopeful yet subtly gloomy twist, calling it “You Could Have It So Much Better.” This second effort broadened their range musically by leaps and bounds, adding a disco flavour to their original, guitar-driven rock music. Many critics said it was better than their first, although there were almost as many detractors as there were admirers.

Their third studio-produced album “Tonight: Franz Ferdinand” reached an even broader fan base, charting in diverse locations such as Japan and Spain. It also achieved great success around the world with a more confident approach to its newfound flavor of dance rock. Although still considered a rock band, with this third album Franz Ferdinand went in a peculiarly dance-oriented direction, attempting to merge two genres that are often seen in the music world as opposites. The overall tempo was knocked down from their first and second albums’ frantic, mainstream rock pace of around 150 beats per minute to a general average of only around one hundred beats per minute. This was seen across the board as a deliberate attempt to make their music more dance-worthy and, therefore, more appealing to the huge pop culture crowd, a crowd that has been historically alienated by rock bands. The pop culture crowd ate up “Tonight: Franz Ferdinand” and was a major factor in the rocketing of this third effort to major international success.

Franz Ferdinand is seen as a band that embraces serious lyrics dealing with tough subjects. This serious side is fused with a celebratory beat and the ability to seriously shake up the dance floor. The combination, although formerly a taboo of sorts among both dance and rock enthusiasts, seems to be more and more the norm today. Young people want to be aware of and welcome both sides of life, the serious and the fun, and Franz Ferdinand is able to do this in a catchy and frenetic manner.

There is also a recurring Soviet, perhaps socialist, theme in much of their work, from the art on their album covers to the lyrics and themes of many of their songs, and all the way to the name of their band itself. What this means to the political side of their fan base is unknown, but to them it seems to be nothing more than a stylistic manoeuvre that, having once stumbled across, they have now decided to maintain. If Franz Ferdinand really are communists, they embrace a modern day, utopian Russia filled with love, hate, and fashion, and packaged together with a side note of heresy.

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